Project of the Month
Over the years we have been privileged to see so many wonderfully creative projects brought to fruition by the teachers we honor every year. In order to help nurture the community of sharing and growing that they foster every day, we would like to highlight a different project every month, and share it with the larger teaching community. Please come back often, and build and expand on what you see, to help enhance the lives of all children.
The purpose of the project was to enhance our outdoor space and increase the variety of materials available, especially for the younger toddlers since they have recently been added to our program.We added new push toys, which has given the newer walkers a little more stability as they learn to maneuver the grassy terrain. One of the more popular additions is the large animals. The children use them for pretend play in every area outdoors. They can be found in the sandbox, tent or going for a walk in a shopping cart.These have provided the children with enhanced opportunities for pretend play outside and are helping them to develop creativity alongside enhanced problem solving skills.
They are not only learning to take turns but, also how to work with a peer who may not want a large tiger growling in their face. So it also gives the staff the opportunity to talk about emotions and perspective taking. The new riding toys led to an unintended outcome that has helped the children learn a little more about appropriate risk taking. While the younger toddlers, who they were intended for, tend to ride these on the flat grassy area, the older toddlers like to take them up the hill and ride them down. As they do this, they are really developing their problem solving and social skills as there are usually two of them doing this together. They have to communicate or be aware of where the other children are so that they don’t crash into someone on their way down. They have to be more aware of their own physical skills in order to be successful with this as well. Because they have been so successful we decided to change the rules and now allow the wheeled toys on the hill where we discouraged that before.
My favorite additions are the new tables built by our carpenters, which was the only obstacle simply because we had to get on their project list and wait until they were available to build them. Having two toddler sized picnic tables outside has given us the space to bring out more quiet work for the times children don’t want to be so active or loud outside. We have taken out play dough, crayons, markers and other items to be used at the tables. They also provide a quiet gather spot to sit and have a drink of water or to wind down before coming inside on a hot day. The new sensory table is in use all the time. Having four bins allows us to mix sand or dirt and water. The children have been increasing their pretend play as they make mud pies or bake muffins, create an environment for an animal, give a baby a bath or explore with other nature materials found on campus. We have observed them experimenting with cause and effect as they drop objects into the water and learning about volume as they see how much a container can hold before overflowing. The fact that we had already added an outdoor sink has made it easier to let the children explore freely since we don’t have to worry about bringing them inside to wash up as they finish an activity. As a result, we are coming up with new ways to use the outdoor environment and spending more time outdoors. There are days now that we stay outside all morning, including for lunch and snack and we plan to continue this.
Observations of living things
My project “Windows to Nature” was designed to provide the children with opportunities and materials to explore nature throughout the year. Although the construction of the three-season room has not yet begun, we have taken advantage of great weather and are using the materials purchased with funds from the Terri Lynne Lokoff/Children’s TYLENOL National Child Care Teacher Award both indoors and outdoors.
The purchase of magnifying glasses, bug catchers and small specimen viewers has allowed the children to be engaged in meaningful investigations both indoors and outdoors. The children have found ants, pill bugs (or “rolly pollys” as the children call them), ladybugs and assorted beetles. They observe the insects and discuss similarities and differences between all the living things that they have found. Using the viewers, we have also incorporated drawing. We brought the insects indoors and had the children represent what they saw through their drawings. These activities encouraged the children to focus on the details of the insects by giving them the opportunity to represent what they have observed.
Indoors, we have also used the mirrored trays to observe and investigate the movement of hermit crabs. Thus, the children were able to observe both sides of the crab at the same time! By keeping the hermit crab in a small space, the children were also able to focus on small details. When we decided to extend a classroom project about mazes to building a maze for the hermit crabs, we first explored how the hermit crabs moved on the trays and then built a large maze with blocks for the crabs to walk through.
One of the large purchases that I was able to make because of the grant was a table that could be left outside for exploration of the natural environment. Unlike indoor tables, this table has space between the wooden slats for water (and snow) to drain through and is sealed so that the wood will not warp and deteriorate over time. The table gives us a space to investigate plants and animals in their natural habitat. I plan to place branches and leaves from different trees on our playground and have the children explore similarities and differences of the leaves. This summer we will spend two weeks studying animals and their habitats, and all of the materials that were purchased through the grant will help the children more fully understand the variety of inhabitants on our playground.
We hope to have the three-season room finished by late fall. If it does not get completed before the winter, however, the Terri Lynne Lokoff/Children’s TYLENOL National Child Care Teacher Award money has still provided an enormous benefit to our children by providing them with materials and tools that support the Reggio Emilia philosophy and help them explore the environment around them.
I am extremely thankful to be able to experience the Terri Lynne Lokoff Child Care Foundation Award with my amazing classroom! I have been working with young toddlers now for almost 5 years now and this has just added to our everyday excitement! In this age group, children are always exploring and trying to experience and test out their curiosity. This is what made me think of the idea of expanding their senses! These are teachable experiences that cannot just be told to a toddler, they need to taste it, touch it, hear it or smell it! So we now get to do all of these things on a daily basis!
It was wonderful to see how well all of the children in my class reacted when they got to experience all of the exciting sensory objects that we chose as part of "The Please Touch Project." We were able to see the class explore, touch, feel, smell and hear their new tools as they learned while they played. We love to sit down with our sensory books and really experience using our senses as we read the books, not just talk about it. This is amazing since the best way for children to learn is through experience and play so they are fully enjoying themselves as they learn! I could not be more appreciative of this great opportunity and I know by the children in my class’s smiles that they appreciate it too.
Some of the amazing new tools that the children are enjoying playing with are helping them to build and add to the vocabulary along with their senses. They aren’t just putting everything in their mouth, they are truly expanding their knowledge and some of their most favorite tools to explore are the sensory tubes, the Environmental Sounds CD, the Feely Box and the scented playdough. We have had some unforgettable experiences and will be forever gracious to this wonderful foundation!
Little Chefs - Since receiving the grant from the Terri Lynne Lokoff Foundation, the students in the Blue Room at Perry Nursery School have been enjoying their weekly cooking projects.
When I returned to school at the end of April, we had made bread dough. The students were not too keen on the smell of the yeast, but were amazed to come back from playing outside to find the dough had risen because of the yeast. The students formed the dough into the first letters of their names and were excited to eat their letter for snack.
The following week, we tried making our own fruit leather by baking an applesauce and honey mixture. The texture did not turn out quite like what you would buy at the store, but a number of the students got past that and approved of the flavor.
In May, we had observed caterpillars spin chrysalises and emerge as butterflies in our classroom. Thus, we had been reading a lot of science books about the life cycle of the butterfly and of course, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”. Our snacks during that time included making caterpillar kabobs by alternating green and red grapes and butterflies out of carrot and celery sticks and bread and cream cheese. We also extended this to the study of other bugs. Within that context, we read “The Grouchy Ladybug” and made a ladybug snack out of crackers, strawberry cream cheese, mini chocolate chips and pretzel sticks.
With the warm weather, we have been looking to make snacks that were a bit more refreshing and did not require heat. After reading “Counting in the Garden” and “Grow Flower Grow”, the students created flowers out of fruit. We also cut up strawberries and mixed them with juice to freeze in ice cube trays. We then had the cubes with lemonade – it was so thirst quenching!
The Blue Room students will continue to enjoy working with food and eating their creations this summer and into next school year. Our class and teachers are very grateful to the Terri Lynne Lokoff Child Care Foundation. The grant has allowed us to do our food projects on a more regular basis. We appreciate their contribution in enriching our early childhood learning experiences.
My students have loved the transformation of the Science Center since I implemented the supplies that were funded by the Terri Lynne Lokoff Child Care Foundation. There is a considerable amount of traffic throughout the day in the newly improved Science Center.
(Some students sorting seashells by physical characteristics and putting them in muffin tins to keep them separated.)
One of the biggest purchases, the light table, has been a favorite of the children. The class loves seeing which items in the room glow when put on top of the light table. This has led to students making thoughtful observations, sorting objects into groups based on whether they glow or not, and discussions about light and shadow.
The purchased seashells and rocks are great learning tools that serve many purposes. The children sort and classify them by many properties, such as color, size, shape and texture. The seashells and rocks are also used in the sensory table to enhance water and sand play.
The magnet set that was purchased has been an excellent addition to the Science Center. The students are fascinated with how and why the magnets work. Some of the students have been very innovative in their use of the magnets! When playing hairdresser in Dramatic Play, the students have used small magnet blocks as hair clips to help them when styling their classmates’ hair.
The project has definitely met my expectations. I imagined that the project supplies would entice the children to spend more time in the Science Center and to explore the materials in a way that would make them ask questions about the world around them and it has done just that. The students continue to surprise me in some of the creative ways they use the materials. It is evident that the children are discovering the world around them with the help of the supplies and becoming young scientists in the process. I consider the project a success and will continue to add materials throughout the coming years to further develop the center.